Meet the woman who led to the downfall of Barbara Byrd-Bennett

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - When federal prosecutors announced the indictment of the former CEO of Chicago's Public Schools, they acknowledged the key role played by a South Side woman whose son is a CPS sixth-grader.

Sarah Karp is the one who spotted something suspicious when nobody else was paying attention.

It's not what you would normally see at the Dirksen Federal Building after the United States Attorney and FBI reveal a former public official is about to plead guilty to corruption charges. But this time, microphones and cameras immediately surrounded the woman whose reporting in a little-known newsletter started it all.

“I did feel that there was something funny, something fishy in the water,” said Karp, who wrote for Catalyst Chicago.

As Karp explained to FOX 32, fishiest of all was then-CPS C.E.O. Barbara Byrd-Bennett's insistence that her former employer, SUPES, get a $20 million contract without allowing any other company even to bid. Karp started to ask questions in her role as a reporter for Catalyst Chicago, but Bennett and other top CPS officials tried to shut her out, treating her like an enemy.

“You know, if the enemy is somebody that tries to make sure that somebody's not stealing from the government that the mayor runs, than I guess I'm the enemy,” Karp said.

Karp lives in the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood and her son attends 6th grade in a Chicago Public School. She said her family fears the schools will soon be hit by huge job cuts, as a consequence of a big budget shortfall made worse by this corruption.

“This is something that my kid, other kids, they need, depend on. And, you know, there's so many people out there scrambling and worried about what's going to happen over the next month.  It's just not a good day to say money was wasted,” Karp said.

Protesters at city hall on Friday said the indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett shows the devastating impact insider deals can have on CPS students.

The protesters focused on cuts to special education and specialized individual education plans. They said they want school officials and lawmakers to work toward more state funding, and cutting non-essential school contracts instead of programs that directly impact students.